Our last stop was the Summer Palace, said to be the best preserved imperial garden in the world, and the largest of its kind still in existence in modern China. It’s hardly surprising that, during the hot Beijing summers, the Imperial Family preferred the beautiful gardens and airy pavilions of the Summer Palace to the walled-in Forbidden City. Dowager Empress Cixi took up permanent residence here for a time, giving rise to some wonderful tales of extravagance and excess.
A short drive from central Beijing it seems like another world.
The landscaped gardens, temples and pavilions were designed to achieve harmony with nature, to soothe and please the eye. The arched bridges, pretty promenades, decorated ‘corridors’ and breezeways all lead visitors through ever-changing views and scenery. Here the marvelous marble boat, there an old theatre, over there an island reached by small wooden boat, and in the distance the hills, with a temple on the hillside, framed by dark trees. Small wonder that UNESCO added this 300 hectare site to the World Heritage List in 1998.
This is China to me, the old and new always apart but together!